My relationship with money

Photgraphed in my office by Karolina Kaczynska.

Money, it’s something we never have enough of, right?! But it’s also something, I believe, we’re not talking enough about.

I have always been quite open about money, mainly because I have never had tons of it, so perhaps I have always felt the ‘money’ chat didn’t really ever apply to me so it was fine to be quite candid. But it is also one of the least talked about topics at the moment.

A new book by Alex Holder: ‘Open Up: The Power of Talking About Money’, out now

This blog, funnily enough, has always been tied to money in a glossy blog-type way. I wanted to start a website that was democratic, you didn’t necessarily have to have loads of money to be a blogger, you didn’t need the latest designer handbag and you didn’t have to be wealthy to love or understand fashion. I spent years organising tickets for Fashion shows, flying to the Caribbean for work, writing pieces on the ‘must-have’ £3,000 handbag but my reality was very different. I wanted to show the invisible side of working in fashion – despite a lot of my friends thinking I was ‘living my best life’ travelling the world, I was working for very little money (I was on £16,000 per annum until I was 28 years old) and longer hours than any of my friends.

I had a large debt from university, from taking time out to travel, and going on more holidays than I could afford, most of which I have only recently paid off. And it’s how the blog came about: yes, I like nice things and would save up to buy items with longevity (especially in regards to interiors) but I would save up for them, or do my weekly food shop in Lidl to make it happen (a lot of people on Instagram stories were surprised by our weekly food shopping bill of £40). But equally, you don’t have to spend a fortune on everything for it to be sustainable and something you’ll love for a long time.

I wanted to take away the stigma of not having tons of money.

I must admit, I have definitely changed my stance about money = success. There probably was a time when it did mean this for me (my parents were both working-class and set up a business from scratch and managed to pay for my university education and never charged me rent whilst working on internships, this freedom equalled success to me and allowed me to progress into a career that could’ve potentially been out of my reach in any other scenario). But now, the more money I am privy to, it really isn’t about that at all.

So, I suppose I need to tell you what I earn, don’t I? I pay myself a salary of £30,000. I am 35 years old. I am the breadwinner. And I am the richest I have ever been. Not only because this is the highest salary I have ever been on, but also because I feel that I am in a place of comfortable debt (just one credit card of achievable payments) and can see a way to start saving for the future (we currently have no pension or savings). We have enough money to pay our mortgage, nursery fees, put money in our joint account for bills and contingency and there is some leftover for a few dinners with friends (Nando’s, but still). This is still under the average London salary.

My company makes enough money to pay me more, but I honestly don’t work for the highest salary I can make for myself. I am very happy to make enough that I feel rewards my work, especially now I don’t work evenings or weekends, but the money my company brings in goes towards something bigger – paying photographers, office staff, people to help with newsletters and creating content. Being able to use money I make to help others be paid in the creative industry (which, believe me, expects A LOT of unpaid work in exchange for coverage and exposure) is something I am hugely proud of and means the atmosphere in which I work is one of positivity and empowerment (I mainly employ women, too, so that’s an extra bonus).

Working for myself has opened up my eyes to the world of money. Whilst working in publishing we would be told, in no uncertain terms, not to ask for a payrise, the current climate of magazines was slippery and we should be ‘lucky’ to have a job. I also inherited my parents’ working class mentality of graft, never show up late, never call-in sick, never ask for anything or rock the boat. Hard work will get you noticed. And it did, but not in financial terms. I was seen as integral to the team but also happy with what I had, so it was never pushed. The only payrises I received in 9 years of working were a £100 voucher after an appraisal (the voucher was for Sainsbury’s, and I was thrilled! We bought loads of food and shoved it in our freezer), or when I threatened to leave. It wasn’t even a bargaining tool, I had just had enough but miraculously the money appeared. But it was also always tied to a promotion, I honestly don’t even know how I would ask for a payrise for doing the same job, I was just taught it wasn’t something you could do.

I wish I had read some of the articles and books that are available now about asking for what you want, understanding your worth and feeling confident with it. It wasn’t until I went freelance and had an agent that I began to understand what others with my experience were being paid, and I must admit I felt a bit of shame and low esteem. Not because I wanted more money but because I realised I had devalued myself. Always working in a recession meant I had always worked three people’s jobs (with a few on the side), so I took that mentality to freelance and almost burnt myself into the ground again by trying to be everything.

I get asked a lot by people, to my face: ‘But how do you make money?’, I suppose it is a strange new career, but I also find it quite rude. It’s not that I don’t like discussing the mechanics of making money and running my own business, it’s more the accusing tone of the question, as if my ‘silly little job’ of posting pictures online isn’t worthy of a career (but perhaps that’s my own insecurities). Most people, would never dream of asking say, a doctor, or a lawyer ‘how do you make money?’ becasue it’s something they understand. But in fact, I shouldn’t have a problem with people asking because it is helping to open up a conversation and allowing people to understand something that they are unable to grasp.

For those who don’t understand, it is very similar to a magazine. I run an editorial platform which has readers and my advice is a trusted part of my site, I recommend products and from time to time, a brand will ask me to work with them to promote a product within a paid partnership (this is never random, and always a brand I have worked with in the past, the payment will generally be because it’s a focused post, or there is a specicifc product the brand want to push). These are essentially advertorials: I have creative control but will often need to gain the brand’s approval before publishing. I also earn money through my styling work: I style campaigns for brands, I write for magazine, consult for brands and sometimes create imagery for them to use on their channels.

I am also working on a few other projects, namely a downloadable mini book on money and budgeting. It’s about how we budget as a family, how we save money on our food shopping bills, tips for selling items second-hand and at carboot sales with some memoirs on money and how it makes me feel all thrown in. I’m still working on it and you can sign up to read it (when it launches) here.

To be completely transparent, this will be something to ‘buy’. I have long battled this idea with myself, but it has taken me a few months to put it all together, I’m giving away a lot of myself in it and realistically, if I’m talking about money, my time and my worth, I actually cannot give away this e-book for free. But it’s extra content, it won’t cost loads and if you’re here for free content then I would recommend going through my last 7 years of archives on this blog.

So there are some thoughts in a nutshell. I feel that social media is starting to create a huge barrier between women especially, especially with money, driven by a lot of assumptions and judgements (I have, sadly, been partial to it, too) and I honestly believe the more discuss issues we face, then there would probably be less comparison and we can help each other ask for more and understand our worth.

Some books I have started reading:

Money: A User’s Guide, Laura Whately

Open Up: The Power of Talking About Money, Alex Holder

Great websites:

Vestpod

The Cut

Refinery 29

Sign up here to be the first to access my guide when it comes out.

114 Comments

  1. Bravo Alex, this is an excellent post, really honest and well written. Thank you for opening up this dialogue! I so appreciate the combination of beautiful stylish fashion and lifestyle and money saving within your posts. The fashion media so rarely seems accessible or relevant to those of us on a ‘normal’ wage, especially once children arrive and there’s even less time/money going around.

  2. Best bloggers (sorry, I don’t even know if I should call your profession that anymore….) piece I’ve EVER read on this subject. Genuine and heartfelt and thank you for sharing it! It is this that keeps me coming back to the website year in year out. I still remember when you were decorating your first flat!

  3. This is why you’re my favourite – you’re sincere, relatable yet aspirational to your readers and you are always ahead of everything (and genuinely so). I’m only slightly older than you but I wish I had your outlook and independent mind.

  4. I love that you’ve written this, and I honestly could have written the same thing word for word! I ‘fell’ into PR, and yet ended up in a series of not very well paid jobs (a lot of charity PR roles) and while friends talked about bonuses, the most I ever received was a a left over t-shirt after an event I’d organised!

    I now work as a Personal Stylist, after a complete career change, and am still juggling the logistics of money! Also being self-employed is an eye opener (I did that as a PR too!) and I constantly feel like ‘when I grow up’ I’ll get this money thing together. I’m now in my 40’s so expected this to happen by now!

    A huge thanks again for sharing this – so fantastic to read such honesty… xx

  5. Must admit I was prepared not to like your post but I did. I always thought you must be an ‘I earn 70K and I’m poor’ person. I couldn’t afford most of your clothes and I couldn’t do house renovations like yours but I’m still a bit in awe now. I’m amazed to hear this given the products you use. I earn 23K for the NHS and I’m over 40. It’s not going to get much better. I am a single parent with 2 almost adult children – university – but still I have to support them to a degree (get it?). I send money when I can, pay for fares home, help with the deposit for rents (wondering if I’ll get them back) and of course I pay the gas/electric/tv/every other bill for running a 3 bed house. The national average is 27K so I’m below. I’m trying to say I’m glad to see a real person there and that you do understand the ‘struggle’. I’m glad you aren’t caught in the money only mold.

  6. As someone who has read your Blog since your very first posts, my admiration & respect for your ethos & transparency has only grown stronger over the (7!) years.

    You are, IMHO, one of a rare & special few Bloggers that have never compromised your integrity & always put your readership & honesty before your own financial gains. You have earned trust & loyalty alongside your salary; that cannot be quantified in numbers.

    Thank you for sharing these insights, as ever.

  7. What an honest and genuine post Alex well done I look forward to reading what you are creating and I don’t think you should have to justify a fee for this it is your thoughts and content just the same as a published book and subscribers have that option to purchase only if they want.

  8. Alex you’re the only blogger to whom I’ve signed up for a newsletter and I think for once my instincts have been spot on. This is one of the most interesting and challenging things I have read for a long time. Also slightly uncomfortable.

    I enjoy social media but it is driven by a veneer of pretend or assumption as you describe it. It can be demoralising if you’re not feeling robust. I never ever get that from your feeds. I have genuinely learnt stuff from you. Looking forward to your thoughts about money.

  9. Hi there, just really want to say ‘Thanks.’ Your honesty is refreshing and I think it’s great to open up this conversation about money and women who earn money. How else are we going to get rid of that pay gap if we don’t talk honestly about the wages and work life balance and what success really looks like to us as Individuals. There is room for everyone to achieve and find a place that feels right for them whatever their personal choices. I do also have that question ‘how do you make money?’ But not in an accusing way more genuine curiosity. How marvellous that the internet has provided you with the power to create something that provides for your family, achieves a desired work life balance, makes you and, in turn, us feel so much more empowered. You’ve clearly worked very hard and continue to do so! More power to you dear lady! Again thanks xxx

  10. I found this really interesting – thank you. I wish there was more transparency about wages in some industries. I used to work in an art Gallery & was paid far less than my peers – partly because I was told there was never any money for a raise & partly because I always felt I couldn’t ask others what they were paid so only found out later how underpaid I was. I wish I had been braver back then to fight my cause more.

    1. Yes, I was always told there was no money, and I think a lot of big companies use it as a default excuse, when I know for a fact there were about 30 people with ‘vice presidency’ roles at my work, so there was definitely money somewhere!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!